Nursing Home Abuse: Patients Are Ignored

I’m not sure if it derives out of shame, fear or just plain laziness- but as experienced trial attorneys we regularly see situations where a patient’s complained of pain following an obvious injury, yet the complaint(s) was ignored by the facility.

A recent horrific example of ignored patient complaints came from our peaceful neighbors to the North. There was a reported case of a woman at a Canadian nursing home who went 24 days without so much as an x-ray of her leg after she fell from her wheelchair and screamed in pain.

Finally, after 24 days of pleas from the patient’s daughter and significant discoloration of the leg, the facility ordered an x-ray of the woman’s leg- which demonstrated that her tibia was indeed broken.

Situations such as this should never occur with any patient. In fact, in the states, such occurrences of uncontrolled pain are not only inexcusable- but they are against the law!

Nursing homes have an obligation to provide pain relieving measures to their patients. While certain medical conditions such as broken bones and bruising may be obvious indicators that a patient was injured, nursing home staff must also be diligent to look for signs of distress in patients with less visible conditions that require pain relief.

With disabled nursing home patients, staff should take note of a patient’s facial expressions, involuntary motor actions, moans and changes in behavior as potential indicators that the patient may indeed be suffering. After noticing these signs, the staff should timely contact the patient’s physician, as well as the patient’s family.

The recognition of a patient’s pain and subsequent pain relief is required pursuant to the Federal Regulation of nursing homes. F-Tag 309 (Quality of Care) requires nursing homes to provide ‘necessary care and services to attain or maintain the highest practical physical, mental and psychological well being, in accordance with the comprehensive assessment and plan of care.’

Despite some ambiguity as to the significance of what ‘highest level of practicable care’ really means, the interpretive guidelines to F-Tag 309 provide more specific guidance for providing pain relief and unquestionably requires nursing homes to both monitor patients and provide them with sufficient pain relieving measures.

If you are concerned about a loved one who you suspect is being abused in a nursing home, call the attorneys at R.C. Shea & Associates to discuss the patient’s legal rights.

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